Young, Loud and Something to Say: CUER Joins Global Kids at NYC Talking Transition Tent

This article was jointly written by Andy Jones and Ethan Middlebrooks

On Friday, November 22, CUER Fellows Andy Jones and I joined youth from Global Kids, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to fostering global learning and youth development, at the Talking Transition Tent. Global Kids and CUER appeared tell Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and other government officials about environmental and environmental justice issues the next administration in NYC needs to address. The high school participants at Global Kids talked about the need for certain environmentally based reforms in NYC’s public schools, ranging from greater inclusion in the curriculum of field trips to more outdoors space to phasing out styrofoam food trays.

In addition to the Global Kids pressing statements, I had the opportunity to make a brief speech regarding elevated subway noise in NYC public elementary schools–a focus of CUER since it began over a year ago. Using as an example Astoria elementary school PS85, which has been the center of attention lately in the struggle to decrease noise in NYC’s public schools, I spoke on noise in schools as environmental justice issue.

Excessive noise in public schools is an environmental justice issue. Children are a largely unprotected class legally and have few rights and abilities for broad public participation. Furthermore, decades of research, including a study done in a NYC elementary school in the 1970s, have demonstrated how excessive noise negatively impacts children’s learning–particularly language acquisition. See, e.g., Elizabeth Jago & Ken Taner, Research Abstract: Environmental Influence on Student Behavior and Achievement: Acoustical (Apr. 1999), The University of Georgia, (referencing A. L. Bronzaft & D. P. McCarthy, The Effects of Elevated Train Noise on Reading Ability, 7 Env’t & Behavior 517-27 (1975)). It is therefore imperative that government officials pay heed to and address the problem of excessive noise in public schools, especially from elevated subways.

Following my talk, which went along the lines of the preceding paragraph, students from Global Kids split off into small groups to discuss additional environmental and environmental justice matters in their schools. The students then reported to the group their proposed ideas and solutions (discussed above). We hope members of Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s transition team got the message.

These types of public forums are a centerpiece of the environmental justice movement. By fostering meaningful involvement among NYC’s diverse populations and age groups, the Transition Tent was hopefully representative of a step toward a more inclusive decision-making process in NYC’s future and under its next mayor.

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